Almost everyone has "catch phrases" of conversation, repeated words or groups of words that we unconsciously use as fillers. As a speech teacher, I can't tell you how many "Ums" and "You knows" I've drawn to the attention of novice speakers. Those are easy to identify, but in writing we tend toward certain words, too. Sometimes they're qualifiers ("it seemed as if"), sometimes modifiers ("very"), sometimes just a word or phrase that somehow makes the writer comfortable. Mine is "just", and I throw it in way too often.

Your friends know what your catch phrases are, but do you? As a writer, it's important to ide

Almost everyone has "catch phrases" of conversation, repeated words or groups of words that we unconsciously use as fillers. As a speech teacher, I can't tell you how many "Ums" and "You knows" I've drawn to the attention of novice speakers. Those are easy to identify, but in writing we tend toward certain words, too. Sometimes they're qualifiers ("it seemed as if"), sometimes modifiers ("very"), sometimes just a word or phrase that somehow makes the writer comfortable. Mine is "just", and I throw it in way too often.

Your friends know what your catch phrases are, but do you? As a writer, it's important to identify catch phrases and eliminate them when they don't serve a purpose. How to do that? Word search is a great tool. When I finish a piece, I search for "just" and look at each use of the word. Does it have to be there? Usually it doesn't, and I zap it out.

How do you discover your catch phrases? 1) Ask people who know you or read your work. Once they see that you really want an answer, they'll be honest and tell you. 2) Read aloud. You'll hear repetition more clearly that way. 3) Reread many times. Sometimes it's on the tenth (or the twentieth) time through that you notice "In my opinion" or "Janice thought" four times on one page.

ntify catch phrases and eliminate them when they don't serve a purpose. How to do that? Word search is a great tool. When I finish a piece, I search for "just" and look at each use of the word. Does it have to be there? Usually it doesn't, and I zap it out.

How do you discover your catch phrases? 1) Ask people who know you or read your work. Once they see that you really want an answer, they'll be honest and tell you. 2) Read aloud. You'll hear repetition more clearly that way. 3) Reread many times. Sometimes it's on the tenth (or the twentieth) time through that you notice "In my opinion" or "Janice thought" four times on one page.

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Comment by Rosemary Harris on June 27, 2007 at 3:29am
Yikes. I have recently embraced "as if." (I reread The Golden Bowl not long ago and HJ used it frequently, so I suppose I lifted it from him. ) You're right to be conscious of repetition ..I even hate using the same word on one page. Except for I, and, and the.

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